by G. Rennie
What happened at Medinah Golf Club today defies rational description as Team Europe came back from a four point deficit to bury Team USA in the singles competition and win the Ryder Cup outright 14.5 to 13.5. Team Europe’s resurrection was numerically equal to the USA triumph a Brookline in ’99 but it surpasses that Ben Crenshaw inspired miracle since it has occurred on foreign soil.
So how to explain it? I can’t, it’s a mystery, a phenomenon of surreal quality. And ultimately a collective act of redemption. Each member of the European Team and their captains have a personal take and story yet the unfolding of this Cup is more poignant for some than for others.
Let’s start with Francesco Molinari. As a Ryder Cup rookie in 2010 he took a beating from Tiger Woods although he still got to taste a sweet team victory. Today he was placed in match 12, once again facing Tiger, in a match most thought would be an afterthought but, in the end, was filled with drama and an unexpected halve.
Next comes Paul Lawrie, the middle aged Scot who is the golfing equivalent of Rodney Dangerfield, the guy who gets no respect. Lawrie has been motivated in recent years with a determination to show his sons he really could compete at golf’s highest levels after many years in undeserved obscurity. More folks remember the guy who lost the ’99 Open Championship, Jean Van de Velde, than the gent who came from 10 strokes back to claim the Claret Jug. Lawrie’s only previous Ryder Cup play came at Brookline and today he went out and pasted Brandt Snedeker, the best putter on the PGA tour, in a vital match no one gave to Europe. Pretty sweet.
How about Sergio? He sprung onto the international golf scene at Medinah’s 1999 PGA as he skipped to a second place finish behind Tiger and started his string of five consecutive Ryder Cups for Europe. But he failed to qualify for the Celtic Manor team last time out and his poor form didn’t merit a pick by Captain Monty. That wouldn’t do and Sergio got his game back together with multiple European Tour wins and a victory at last month’s Wyndham Championship to ensure a berth on the 2012 team. His 1Up victory on 18 over Jim Furyk came at a pivotal time when the unthinkable – a win by Europe – began to seem inevitable. How do you say sweet in Spanish?
In 1991 the first, and until this year the only German player in Ryder Cup history faced a treacherous, sliding downhill putt to claim victory. We all know that Bernhard missed that unmakable putt and it must have come to mind for all golf fans as Martin Kaymer stood over that eight footer with the chance to clinch the Ryder Cup for Europe. I hope it eases the pain a bit, Herr Langer. Ausgezeichnet!
Everyone on both teams has a story, everyone has struggles and hopes, and perhaps some regrets. But perhaps no one had more of a karmic touch this week than the Basque captain of Team Europe, José Maria Olazabal. He and Davis Love served the game of golf wonderfully throughout their captaincies, preparing their sides well while always taking the sporting high road in elevating this event to a competition and not a battle. Love is a great representative for golf, a gentleman and sportsman. But back in Brookline, in ’99’ when Justin Leonard sank that impossible birdie putt on the 17th green he came rushing out onto the green with a couple of dozen other USA team members and followers to celebrate. It was a celebration both premature and misplaced. Leonard’s competitor in that match had his line trampled and focus hijacked by this breach of etiquette and sportsmanship. Jose Maria was that unlucky man and he didn’t roll his lengthy bird bid in on top of Leonard’s.
But he got a huge karmic payback today. How else can you explain it?
Dulce! That’s Spanish for sweet.